AMSTERDAM — Scott Bruce has learned a lot of things working next door to Vic Giulianelli’s office for more than 15 years.
Singing and dancing, however, are not among those things.
“Vic is a little more extroverted than I am,” Bruce said. “Vic has a terrific creative side. He’s involved with his band MedRock, and I remember when I interviewed for my current position I shared with him that I don’t sing, and I don’t dance and I’m not a great joke teller. That kind of thing. My strengths are that I’m more of an analytic person.”
Bruce has served St. Mary’s Healthcare Ministry for 25 years, 15 as its vice president of operations. He took over that job from Giulianelli in 2005, and now he’s set to succeed Giulianelli as St. Mary’s president and CEO on July 1.
“We have differences in style, but I’ve had the privilege of learning from him for the last 15 years,” Bruce said. “Of course there are going to be some differences here and there, our approach to things, but for the most part my goal is to continue on the path that Vic has put us on here in this organization.”
Bruce, a graduate of Siena College with a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Connecticut, said Giulianelli has talked to him about a succession plan for the last three or four years. He said prior to becoming vice president of operations at St. Mary’s it had never been a goal of his to run the organization.
“If you had asked me when I was younger whether I’d ever be running a hospital, I would not have said that was part of the plan,” he said.
Giulianelli announced his plan to retire after 40 years at St. Mary’s on April 27, and announced Bruce would be replacing him in the same news release.
“Scott is a seasoned executive who is highly respected among his colleagues at St. Mary’s and throughout the Capital Region for his knowledge, judgment, insight, analytical abilities and collaborative leadership,” Giulianelli stated in the news release.
Bruce is taking over St. Mary’s during a time of major change for the organization and during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
On March 25, St. Mary’s Healthcare announced it was splitting off from the Ascension nonprofit healthcare system, making it once again a locally controlled independent hospital system for the first time in 18 years.
Giulianelli at that time said St. Mary’s had begun to realize that being a part of Ascension was no longer beneficial around 2015. He said St. Mary’s was putting more revenue into the parent organization than it was getting back in benefits, which prompted the split. The split becomes official June 30, the day before Bruce takes over.
Bruce said dealing with the healthcare challenges of COVID-19 and replacing all of the different services provided to St. Mary’s by Ascension are his top priorities.
“Keeping our residents and associates and community safe is job No.1, but Job No.2 on our list here is going to be successfully unwinding us from Ascension,” he said.
“Ascension is a fairly tightly integrated system. They oversee a number of internal operations here. We have information technology, system integration with Ascension, all of that has to be decoupled, and at the same time we’re going to be installing a new information system. We have a system now called MEDITECH, which was installed here in 1990, and we’re going to be installing a newer version of MEDITECH that is fully integrated from inpatient to outpatient.”
Bruce said St. Mary’s anticipates there will be savings from breaking away from Ascension, but it’s too early to tell how much because it’s unknown how much it will cost to replace the things Ascension provided.
He said some of the support provided by Ascension can be replaced in-house, while other services will have to be subcontracted.
Bruce said St. Mary’s Healthcare currently has about $180 million annual budget, with 1,400 full-time equivalent employees and approximately another 200 less than full-time employees. He said the healthcare system serves about 500,000 patients annually, with about 6,000 to 6,500 new patients per year.
About 75 percent of those patients pay for their healthcare using Medicare and Medicaid, but those programs only make up about 65 percent of the hospital’s revenues, Bruce said.
He said St. Mary’s will continue to engage in regional partnerships under his tenure, such as the Innovative Health Alliance of New York, a collaboration with St. Peter’s Health Partners and Ellis Medicine that specifically deals with issues associated with Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“But they’re in no way like our relationship with Ascension,” Bruce said of the regional collaborations.
Bruce said St. Mary’s Board of Directors is focused on being independent and is not currently looking to merge the hospital system with any other hospitals.
He said one of the projects that will be a big part of 2021 will be 16,000-square-foot expansion of the Rao Pavilion, where it will be moving its primary care practices in Amsterdam, its behavioral health services and its care services. The expansion will be paid for with a $5 million state grant.
“We’re also moving our inpatient chemical dependency program, and that will be moved-to and expanded onto our [Amsterdam] Memorial campus,” he said.
Bruce said he also expects Giulianelli will remain active with St. Mary’s, although he’s not yet certain in what capacity.
“My hope is that Vic will remain involved in St. Mary’s as long as he is willing to do so. Whether it’s board membership, or, at the organizational level, Vic is very involved with our [Foundation of St. Mary’s Healthcare]. He’s on the foundation board as the CEO, but that will change as of July 1. I know he’s going to want to stay involved; I just don’t know at what level.”